Werner Hink

Mozart: Sonatas for Piano and Violin

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Recorded in Vienna, but released in Japan, and representing a collaboration between a Japanese pianist and an Austrian violinist, this disc includes four of Mozart's middle-period sonatas for piano and violin. These are seemingly minor works, yet they hold unusual challenges for the performers. Unlike almost every other form in which he worked, Mozart did not perfect the violin-and-piano sonata: it remained transitional, in between a work for piano with ad lib violin accompaniment and the full partnership of equals it would become in Beethoven's hands. The relationship between the instruments is trickier on a modern piano than on a fortepiano, which scales the dynamics down and puts the listener in touch with the moments in which the violin steps out of character and takes over the dialogue. Here, on a Bösendorfer grand, pianist Keiko Toyama offers remarkable sensitivity to Mozart's melodies. She has a variety of articulation styles that result in a delightful liveliness, and the smooth unity of her performances is reminiscent of the playing of her teacher Alfred Cortot. The piano does tend to dominate the violin in some of the passagework, but the overall effect is clean, effervescent, and never stiff. Sample the authentic-instrument version by another Japanese-European pair, fortepianist Rumiko Harada and violinist Johannes Leertouwer, for a different outlook on these works, but, especially in the serious opening movement of the concluding Sonata in G major for violin and piano, K. 379, listeners who prefer modern instruments will find this disc absorbing. Absolute clarity of sound, bringing out the subtleties of Toyama's playing, is another plus.

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